Consuming a lot of sugary foods and beverages can lead to the development of gum disease (i.e., periodontal disease) and cavities; however, it is not the sugar itself that is detrimental to the teeth and gums, it is the bacteria that eats it.
HARMFUL BACTERIA IN THE MOUTH FEED ON SUGAR AND STARCH
There are numerous species of bacteria in the mouth and the good news is that most of them are harmless. Nevertheless, there are two species that raise concern because they are responsible for the development of cavities and periodontal disease: streptococcus mutans and porphyromonas gingivalis. Both of these species of bacteria feed on the starches and sugars in the mouth. It is the acidic by-products that the bacteria create while feeding that are the cause for concern.
Streptococcus mutans creates an acid that is powerful enough to break down tooth enamel, which is the strong outer layer that protects the teeth. Once the bacteria have the ability to enter the tooth, a cavity can begin to develop.
Porphyromonas gingivalis is linked to periodontitis (a severe form of gum disease). Periodontitis can lead to tooth loss. This bacterium has the ability to infect the periodontal ligament’s stem cells, which are crucial to maintaining, renewing and repairing the periodontal tissue. Furthermore, if these bacteria enter the bloodstream through a mouth sore or bleeding gums, other health issues may result. Issues linked to periodontal disease include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease.
TYPES OF SUGARS AND HOW THEY AFFECT YOUR ORAL HEALTH
Liquid forms of sugar, such as those found in sodas and juices are able to get into every opening, crevice, and crack of your mouth. Even if you brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly, reaching all of the places where bacteria can reside after consuming one of these drinks is difficult. It is in these hard-to-reach areas that the bacteria will thrive, leading to cavities under the gums, between the teeth and in other areas that are difficult to reach. Eventually, gingivitis, which is the first stage of gum disease, may develop.
Non-liquid forms of sugar leave large amounts of residue on the teeth. Since the saliva is unable to wash large pieces of food away, you are more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease. This is especially true in relation to processed sugars that are highly concentrated.
RECOGNIZING GUM DISEASE
In its early stages, gum disease is referred to as gingivitis. Initially, the gums become inflamed, appear red and tender to the touch. In addition, the gums may bleed while brushing and flossing. Left untreated, early periodontal disease may develop.
Symptoms of early periodontal disease include pockets forming along the gum line and the gums pulling away from the teeth. These pockets fill with bacteria and the gums will most likely bleed while flossing and brushing.
Moderate periodontal disease causes the teeth to become loose as the support structure begins to break down. At this stage, the infection can cause an inflammatory response throughout the body.
Once advanced periodontal disease develops, the connective tissue responsible for holding the teeth in place beings deteriorating. The bones, gums and other tissues are destroyed. Severe pain while chewing, a foul taste in the mouth and chronic halitosis (bad breath) is also common at this stage of gum disease. Unfortunately, tooth loss is likely.
Tips for preventing cavities and gum disease:
- Besides just reducing your sugar intake, stimulating your saliva flow is helpful. When your mouth has an adequate amount of saliva, minerals are constantly entering the mouth and any remaining food particles are washed away. Try drinking water regularly throughout the day and incorporating fibrous fruits and vegetables, hard cheeses as well as foods cooked with fennel, cayenne pepper or ginger into your diet. Avoid foods and beverages that are known to dry out the mouth. Some of these include coffee, alcoholic beverages, popcorn, salty nuts, dry crackers, and energy drinks.
- You need to avoid starchy foods because they begin converting into sugar as soon as they enter your mouth. These foods include white bread, pasta, and potato chips, all of which can easily become lodged between the teeth and near the gum line. Substitute starchy and sugary treats with healthier snacks like yogurt or some other type of dairy product.
- Some foods that are great for your gums include celery, shiitake mushrooms, apples, and carrots.
- Use green and black tea to suppress the harmful bacteria in your mouth. Of course, these teas must be consumed without adding sugar, try to drink a few cups every day.
- By practicing good oral hygiene, eating a healthy diet that is low in sugar and having your biannual dental cleanings, you decrease the likelihood that you will develop cavities and gum disease.
If you are experiencing dental pain, need a professional cleaning or you would like to learn more about the holistic dentistry options available in Jacksonville, Florida, call Smiles by Shields today at 904-731-0777. We are dedicated to providing each patient with dental services designed to benefit his or her body as a whole.